Lawmakers look to January with focus on COVID-19 and other unfinished business

Lawmakers look to January with focus on COVID-19 and other unfinished business
Virginia General Assembly Building (Source: WHSV)

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - After a year of dramatic change in the legislature, we’re asking what comes next.

Members of the House plan to meet virtually as they did during the special session that ended in October. Members of the Senate will gather in person.

A major focus, local lawmakers say, will remain on COVID-19.

“We clearly have a lot to do to make sure from a health care perspective, from small business and education,” Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) told WDBJ7 Wednesday morning. “That seems to be really dominating things here.”

“We are trying to address the pandemic,” added Delegate Chris Hurst (D-Blacksburg). “And as the pandemic evolves, we have to evolve and respond in kind.”

But Virginia Tech Professor and WDBJ7 Political Analyst Bob Denton said the Democratic majority also has other unfinished business.

“Eliminating the right to work, a ban of assault weapons will come back,” Denton said. “Abolishing the death penalty, recreational use of marijuana, requiring mandatory paid sick leave. We’ll see a lot of these particular issues still come back, in the House at least.”

Delegate Joe McNamara (R-Roanoke County) is hoping for less drama, and more emphasis on the core services of government.

“I’m hoping we get back to basics, blocking and tackling,” McNamara said. “That’s our police force, that’s our schools, that we spent little time talking about in the special session. Our teachers, our first responders. I’m really hopeful we’ll get back to the basics of government and the things that we need to do.”

Chris Hurst is hoping the state’s financial picture continues to improve.

“As the forecasts continue to get better,” Hurst said, “as Virginia shows that we actually, in terms of money coming into the state treasury, we’re doing okay, maybe we’ll have an ability to continue to make those investments that we wanted to make, but then had to change once the pandemic came.”

A short session, with new limits on the number of bills each lawmaker can introduce, begins on January 13th.

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